What’s in the lunchbox?

Harvest season runs hot and heavy this time of year. Shorter daylight hours and the whims of Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law tend to keep everyone on edge until the last round.

Maybe that’s why my mom had one rule when it came to busy field seasons—keep the crew fed and happy at all costs. And key to that was to not run out of everyone’s favorite harvest snacks.

Every family has signature cab treats kept on hand and the tastes are as varied as the farmer and the season.

For example, Dad didn’t like having chocolate in the cab because it could melt too easily. Even after he got equipment with air conditioners he stuck to his hard candy diet. Of course, M&Ms were the exception and if they were in a trail mix format with some dried fruit and nuts he was downright giddy. Dad’s sweet tooth still prefers hard candies and he’d have a stash of Starbrite peppermints, Lemon drops, and those cinnamon Hot Tamales in every vehicle on the farm. Going to the field with him when we were kids, it was a game to see if we could find Dad’s candy stash. Sort of a harvest egg hunt, if you will.

Some farmers are more fans of desserts than wrapped candy. Some appreciate the convenience of pre-packaged baked goods from Hostess or Little Debbie in their lunchboxes. Others prefer home baked cinnamon rolls, brownies and cupcakes. The only common rule is the sweet treat must be able to be held by one hand while operating equipment with the other, and can stand up to a little added seasoning of dust and chaff.

I’m pretty sure a farmer thought up the 5-Second Rule after he dropped a cupcake in a combine cab during milo harvest.

Other farmers, though, are the crunchy and/or salty snack fans. You’ve got the grain cart driver who prefers to sort his Chex Mix by shape, the combine driver who goes for the Doritos, and the late night hay baler who’s not going anywhere without a bag of beef jerky or a handful of Slim Jims. And yes, it’s cliché, but you know the potato harvesters are crunching on Lay’s in their cabs.

The only commonality is the trash debris on the cab floor, so remember to add in a couple of trash bags to the lunchbox you’re packing.

Then there are the farmers who don’t care what’s in the lunch bucket, but are stringent when it comes to what’s iced in their coolers. You have the Gen X diehards for the caffeine kicks of Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper, the boomer traditionalists who have to have Pepsi or Coca-Cola, and then the millennials with their rocket fuel energy drinks and little containers of 5-Hour Energy. Hey, whatever keeps you alert and making another round in the field, folks.

Just do your heart and your kidneys some good and mix in a swig from the water jug every hour or two, ok?

Speaking of good health, there are the outliers to the Harvest Treat Rules, those farmers who for one reason or another stick to Ziplock baggies of washed and cut fruits and vegetables, or sliced apples with peanut butter. They keep jugs filled with ice water or tea instead of sugary sodas. Some even take mental health breaks from the cab to stretch their muscles and get some exercise in with a walk around equipment. Good for them for looking out for their health and watching their waistlines. (Fellas, blink twice if you didn’t pack your own cab snack bags, your spouse has put the whole family on a diet plan, and you’d like a Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen on the next town run.)

No matter your family’s harvest snacking preferences—be they sweet or salty, pre-packaged or home-baked—may they be little reminders in the cab that whatever the pressures of the field, there’s a lot of good things waiting at home.

Be careful out there. Come home safe to your families. And maybe try to supplement that harvest diet with a balanced meal that you don’t balance on your knees in the cab once in a while.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].